And it shall come to pass, that every thing that lives, which moves, wherever the rivers shall come, shall live…
I. ITS SPRING (ver. 1). The river had its spring out of sight; the fountain. head was invisible; but it proceeded out of the sanctuary of God. How pointedly this tells of the Holy Spirit, the river of the water of eternal life, proceeding out of the throne of God! It is God's own essence, communicated to us men over the Cross of Jesus, and for His name's sake. Hence, St. John says that it proceeded out of the "throne of God, and of the Lamb." When Christ was here on earth as God-man, no one could see where the healing virtue in Him came from; but there it was, issuing forth from the very hem of His garment, so that you had but to touch it, and be healed. He was the house or temple of God, — God's sanctuary; God dwelt in Him, the Spirit rested upon Him, for His redeemed, "without measure." He was its spring for His people; therefore He said, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me," etc.
II. ITS SIZE (vers. 2-5). Here was symbolised the gift of the Holy Spirit to the patriarchs. It was but partial, — here and there, — now to Enoch, now to Noah, now to Abraham. But presently, after an interval, that "man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, and measured a thousand cubits" (a thousand cubits distant from their spring in the sanctuary, but they were still shallow), "and he brought me through the waters; and the waters were to the ankles." The Holy Spirit had a wider and somewhat deeper flow amongst the pious Israelites, represented by such men as Joshua, and Caleb, and the seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal, and especially by the prophets. Again, another interval, and he measured a thousand cubits (two thousand cubits from their spring in the sanctuary), "and brought me through the waters" (and still they were comparatively shoal), "and the waters were to the knees." The Holy Spirit was evidently increasing His influences just before Christ's incarnation. Nathanael, Simeon, Anna, and others, were "waiting for the consolation of Israel." Again, an interval, and "he measured a thousand cubits" (three thousand cubits from their spring in the sanctuary), "and brought me through, and the waters were to the loins." The holy tide was rising rapidly during Christ's personal ministry. The four Gospels testify plainly and unanimously to the great preparation work through Christ's teaching and miracles amongst the masses. But yet one more interval, and he measured a thousand cubits (four thousand cubits from their spring in the sanctuary), and now there was no going through the waters, — now "it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over." What have we here, but that glorious crisis in the history of the Holy Spirit, that first, sudden, grand outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which is described in the first chapters of the Acts? Depend upon it, the river is flowing as deeply now as on the Day of Pentecost. It is simply that we do not see it by reason of our blindness or feeble faith, and do not avail ourselves of its present and precious blessings. There are rivers in South America rolling down water enough for all the inhabitants of the globe, and yet only here and there a roving tribe knows of them; for miles and miles they are merely sipped by birds and lapped by solitary animals. But are they not there? We should say to the sceptic, Go and see; go and satisfy yourself. Why, when Christ was upon earth, a very river of fragrancy, and healing, and blessing in Himself, men did not recognise Him as such: they passed Him by as "a root out of a dry ground." Now, suppose, because the myriads then alive did not flock to Him, some should deny that He really was in Palestine, what should we say to them? We should say, He was there, but they knew Him not. And so now we say, Here is the majestic river of the Holy Spirit's influence amongst us; but we are blind about it, or we voluntarily keep aloof from it, and so it is no river to us. It is here, everywhere, and in all its efficacy; but what is it to the worldly, the carnal, the trifling, the formal?
III. ITS SERVICE. What did this river do? (vers. 6-9). Such is the beneficent, salutary service of this river. It shall only except from its benefits the wilfully obdurate and hypocritical, — those who, having known the truth and felt it, and been urged by it, yet resist its power, and refuse to be fruitful. All others, however barren by nature, shall be visited and blessed, and transformed by it. It shall come unto hearts hard as the nether millstone, and soften them; unto families poor as beggars, and enrich them; unto neighbourhoods which have been desert, and cause them to rejoice and blossom as the rose; unto natures which have been unprofitable, and make them plenteously to bring forth the fruit of good works. In conclusion —
1. Get to know and to remember more thoroughly that this river, these holy waters issuing from the sanctuary, are what you and every fellow creature most needs.
2. Get to realise more and more vividly that this blessed river is about you everywhere, about your path and your lying down. It is the river "the streams whereof make glad the city of God."
3. Get to open your heart to it more and more. You must go into it up to your ankles, knees, loins; nay, its waters must go over your head and wash you every whir; you must put yourself in connection with it by drinking of it, by walking in it, by floating upon it, by conducting streams of it into your own soul.
4. Go and spread the news of it and the use of it far and wide. Tell others round you what it has done for you. Let them see what life it imparts to you, what satisfaction you gather from those fruits which grow by it, what healing from the leaves, how holy it makes you, how calm, how strong.
(J. Bolton, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.
WEB: It shall happen, that every living creature which swarms, in every place where the rivers come, shall live; and there shall be a very great multitude of fish; for these waters are come there, and [the waters of the sea] shall be healed, and everything shall live wherever the river comes.